cover image Lestrade and the Magpie

Lestrade and the Magpie

M. J. Trow. Gateway Editions, $19.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-89526-289-9

At the start of this 10th volume in the Lestrade Mystery series, a reporter visiting Scotland Yard notices a sepia photo of an assistant police commissioner, Major Sir E.F. Wodehouse, whose vexed expression seems to deny ""knowledge of anyone called Jeeves or Wooster."" It's not only from this that one might conclude that Trow is trying to follow as much in the tradition of the great English humorist as he is in the footsteps of Conan Doyle. In 1920, the murder of his daughter Emma's fianc , a WWI aviator, draws Inspector Sholto Lestrade out of retirement. The body count quickly mounts. Lestrade and Emma go underground to investigate the killings of a female cousin of playwright George Bernard Shaw, a Belgian diplomat, a Russian sailor and a Bedouin who's found dead in full desert dress on Hampstead Heath. Gags, snickering asides and allusive in-jokes abound, while various celebrities of the day--from Shaw to Irish nationalist Michael Collins--rush in and out of the action. The problem is that these characters, both imaginary and historical, are mere cartoon figures. Unlike P.G. Wodehouse and Doyle, Trow is too busy cracking jokes to invest his characters with any real humanity, and Emma's fianc 's death and her later kidnapping scarcely register as tragedies. The result is burlesque on the order of Benny Hill. (Apr.)